When Irene hit, I didn’t wait for a phone call or for a helicopter tour. I put on my boots, got in my truck and went to work helping neighbors.
I met with a town official who was trying to figure out how to re-route traffic around Route 7 because a pizza shop was in the middle of the road after the flooding. He was discussing ways to dismantle the building but knew that would come with a lengthy timeline. I suggested we get a crane and move the whole building. I called Dave Demag in Chittenden County who had a crane business and I explained the problem. He looked at his inventory and found a crane in NY that he could have in Brandon the next day. He delivered, and we worked together to move the pizza shop, allowing Route 7 traffic to flow again.
The young fire chief explained that the all-volunteer fire department had lost all of its equipment. I called Matt Vinci who is in charge of the professional fire fighters association and over the next few days he assembled all the equipment needed for Moretown.
I made sure the Governor understood that existing permitting guidelines would delay and hamper efforts to reopen Route 4 quickly, if at all. I recommended the state temporarily lift the permitting guidelines, which they did, and it sped up the process of getting Vermont back in business. In fact, rebuilding those roads has been lauded as an outstanding success of Vermont’s recovery efforts.
I noticed they weren’t using an available back road as a workaround, and wondered why. The National Guard was there ready to help but not a lot of progress was being made. I spoke with VTrans engineers, discussing how they could use gravel to make a temporary road. They worked smartly and diligently to implement that solution, and traffic began flowing again.
In Berlin, Duxbury, Woodstock and other communities throughout the state:
I heard from mobile home owners whose trailers had been flooded and damaged beyond repair. While FEMA could compensate them, in many cases, for replacement of their lost property, they all faced having to pay upwards of $5,000 for removal and disposal of their waterlogged homes before anything else could happen. These are mostly families who didn’t have thousands saved up for this kind of disaster.
Thinking about the number of people who needed help, and how they were clustered around the state, I wondered if we could put together a low- or no-cost removal option for these families if we tackled the job in bulk. I called a team together from the construction, trucking and waste management industries, and we put it all together. With contributions of volunteer labor, contractors doing work at cost, and local businesses making monetary donations, we were able to remove and dispose of dozens of mobile homes at no cost to the state or to the homeowners, giving these families a clean lot and the opportunity for a fresh start.
Post-Irene Infrastructure Support:
Emergency Management was rightfully focused on issues around life and safety following Irene. But there were critical infrastructure issues at hand as well. As an industry group with knowledge, equipment and resources, Associated General Contractors (AGC) proudly stepped up to help bolster the state’s efforts working on roads, bridges and other infrastructure needs. As a past president and with my construction company as a member, I worked with the Associated General Contractors to set up a system to inventory resources available throughout the state and to continue the recovery work for days, weeks and months after the storm.